Social networks, the term has come to mean more than one thing in our society. And this particular study can really throw you for a loop if you focus on what most of us now think of when we say social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, any social media channel really.
But this study, published in this month’s print edition of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, is in fact talking about the old-fashion meaning of a social network.
The study shows that teens feel less lonely than their counter parts did 20 years ago, but they also have fewer friends to rely on. The conclusion? Teens are less community-minded and more individualistic.
A survey was given to 285,153 U.S students in Grades 8, 10 and 12 between 1991 and 2012; students were asked to agree or disagree with statements such as “I often wish I had more good friends” and “I usually have a few friends around I can get together with”.
So the conclusion of the study is that teenagers feel less isolated despite the fact that their “social network isolation” has in fact increased.
How is this possible? The researchers from the University of Queensland, Brisbane in Australia argue that it is a result of cultural trends that force people to feel as though they don’t have to—or shouldn’t—rely on other people.
“Historically people had to rely on others more,” said lead researcher David Clark in an e-mail to the Globe and Mail. “Modern times may foster independence.”
There are many reasons as to why teenagers now-a-days may have less of a social network then previously. Personally, I don’t think social networks of the electronic version should be overlooked. Perhaps teenagers are finding a lot of the support they need online through forums, social media and other tools.
And maybe they feel it is less necessary to have a large group of friends they are not as close with, as the online community already provides them with that.
Clark seems to agree to some extent: “[Teens] may have greater quality friendships. They may have less need for [more] friends,” he said. “Belonging is one of the strongest human motivations. This research is some good news on this front.”